There have been some interesting upsets in world cricket over the last week or so.
Seventh ranked Sri Lanka defeated sixth ranked Pakistan in a test match in Galle, (the same Pakistan side (more or less) that whitewashed the number one test side, England, earlier this year); 12th ranked Zimbabwe won a T20 triangular series against the Bangladesh and South Africa XIs; and the Afghanistan U-19s defeated the Bangladesh U-19s at the U-19 Asia Cup – the same Afghanistan U-19 side (more or less) that lost to the UNITED STATES U-19 side earlier this year.
And, so, a couple upsets. But it brings up an interesting subject:
Most professional leagues throughout the world strive for it, mostly via financial rules such as equity sharing…etc., but also with programs such as the Premiere League’s “homegrown” rule and other roster related rules. But world cricket simply does not have the ability to enact similar rules. All they can really do is try to ensure that players are playing for the country they are supposed to be playing for, and most of that trying is in vain, as we know.
And so what can the ICC do to ensure parity? To ensure each ODI side is capable of winning a World Cup (at least on paper)? To ensure that all ten test playing nations are capable of giving every other test nation a decent run for their money?
I don’t have the definitive answers to those questions, but I think they are terribly important questions nonetheless.
And to their credit, the ICC is, well, trying. There are developmental leagues, youth tournaments, Associate only competitions. They let minnows into the world cup, and they do not give nations test status without first doing their due diligence.
But obviously the problem remains.
I am not entirely sure of the algorithm behind the ICC ranking systems, but there is quite obviously a tremendous gap in class between the top three test nations (England, South Africa, and Australia) and the bottom three (New Zealand, Bangladesh, and Zimbabwe). Of course, there is a great gap between those two sets of countries in size, population, and GDP, as well, and there just is not much the ICC can do about that. Furthermore, the first three have been playing tests for far longer than the second three and the Bangladeshes and Zimbabwes of the world simply might need more time to develop.
And one thing the ICC is doing that I applaud is selecting lower level test sides to host major tournaments. I mean, there were World Cup matches in Bangladesh last year, and Sri Lanka is due to hose the T20 World Cup this fall. Those tournaments help line the coffers of the cricket boards, and help promote cricket generally among the populace.
What the ICC needs to do is ensure that that money is going back into cricket development, AND it needs to ensure that the domestic leagues are taking full advantage of any surges in popularity cricket sees in the host countries.
Again, I have no answers.
Every dedicated cricket follower will tell you that the future of the sport depends on a strong West Indies, a strong Pakistan…etc. But I don’t think we should expect the domestic boards to do it themselves, I think the ICC needs to step in and do what they can to level the playing field.
This is a subject I will be talking about more going forward.